The circus is back in town. Just when it seemed like things had settled down in Britain, someone threw a spanner into the works. And once again, the prize goes to Boris Johnson, Westminster’s resident buffoon.
Johnson decided to jump ship on Friday night, in an effort to escape the humiliation of being found guilty of lying to Parliament. This would have led to a suspension of at least ten days for the ex-PM, and the prospect of fighting (and potentially losing) a by-election.
True to form, Boris did not depart quietly, but with a fanfare of publicity. His explosive resignation was designed to inflict the greatest possible harm on Rishi Sunak’s government – a kind of farewell present to his former Downing Street neighbour.
“Boris Johnson goes full Trump in search of one last act,” was the headline in the austere Financial Times.
Old Boris was found by the parliamentary privileges committee – which has a Tory majority – to have lied to MPs. He described the committee and its investigation as a “kangaroo court” and a “witch-hunt”, the aim of which was to force him out.
There is clearly no love lost between Johnson and Sunak. The former Tory leader feels that he has been stabbed in the back. He was not defeated, he believes, but cheated out of his position as prime minister.
Contained in Johnson’s resignation letter was a threat that he will return. He harks back to when Winston Churchill was called back from the cold to serve his country. And no doubt he would like to tread the same path as his Conservative hero.
But for now, outside Parliament, Boris will hurl thunderbolts at Sunak and those he regards as traitors.
First up is a flurry of troubling by-elections for the Tories, arising from the resignation of Johnson and two of his loyal supporters, Nadine Dorries and Nigel Adams.
This will cause the maximum discomfort for Sunak. With the Tories trailing in the polls, it is possible that the party will lose all three seats, adding to the pressures on the beleaguered Tory government.
In fact, a string of by-election defeats could be the final nail in the coffin for this government, which is clearly in its death throes.
Rather than staggering on to a drawn-out demise, Sunak could be pushed into calling an early general election. But this would offer no salvation. Whether it is sooner or later, his party would still face a wipeout. Whatever happens, it is clear that this Tory government is finished.
Sensing this impending doom, dozens of Conservative MPs have already announced that they will not stand at the next election. This includes high-profile names such as Dominic Raab, Sajid Javid, and Matt Hancock – Tory rats abandoning their sinking ship.
There is even speculation that Boris may launch his own party, given the Tories’ current meltdown.
Others have suggested that he will seek to contest a safer Tory seat at the next general election. Sunak could ban him from standing, however, putting Johnson on another collision course with the party’s leadership.
Mighty hath fallen
It is not impossible that Boris’ parliamentary career could still rise from the ashes. What happens will be decided by the scale of the Tories’ losses.
How far the mighty have fallen! Just over three years ago, Johnson was prime minister with an 80 seat majority.
Yet, as we predicted, he presided over a government of crisis. We believed that his administration was doomed from the outset. But the depth of the collapse has been remarkable.
Johnson is a complete maverick, who is interested only in his own personal advancement. The leader of the Tory Party is supposed to represent the interests of big business. But when he clashed with them over Brexit, Boris said ‘f**k business’.
In reality, under Boris, the ruling class lost control over the Tory Party.
What they hated about Johnson was how, through his reckless actions, he brought the entire establishment into disrepute. He helped to undermine the institutions of bourgeois democracy, particularly Parliament, and showed what a sham these really are.
Decline and degeneration
This episode is the latest symptom of the crisis of the regime in Britain. This, in turn, is a reflection of the decline of British capitalism.
Johnson reflected the degeneration of the Tory Party, and of the ruling class. They got the leader they deserved.
The fratricidal conflicts within the Tory Party, however, have thwarted these efforts.
The Johnson fiasco, therefore, is not an isolated incident, but a sign of the times; an indication of the impasse of British capitalism.
Starmer’s establishment B-team
Ironically, the ruling class has largely given up on the Tory Party. Instead, they are looking towards a Starmer Labour government as a better option.
The Labour Party under Starmer poses no threat to them. On the contrary, Starmer has bent over backwards to prove his loyalty to big business, promising to be “Blair on steroids”. In other words, he will seek to lead a committed government committed to capitalism.
Starmer will benefit from the Tory crisis, which will help to propel him into power. He probably would like for Labour to be in a minority after the next election. This would give him an excuse to form some kind of coalition with the Lib Dems, as a pretext for abandoning any promises of reform.
Already, the right-wing Labour leaders are covering their tracks, stating that they will inherit a grave economic situation, and that they will have to act accordingly.
A Starmer government will also be a crisis government, given the parlous state of British capitalism. There will be no boom to help them, as was the case with Blair and New Labour.
The economic climate has radically changed since the 2008 slump. Now is the epoch of capitalist crisis and austerity. All that these leaders can offer is reformism without reforms. In fact, counter-reforms are on the order of the day.
This will push the working class into opposition to Starmer, opening up a period of intense instability and class struggle in Britain.
Are you a communist?
As Lenin explained, splits in the ruling class are the first condition of revolution. This is true of the present situation.
Lenin’s other prerequisites for revolution are also maturing: the middle classes in ferment; the entrance of the masses onto the scene. Britain is being transformed in front of our very eyes from one of the most stable countries to one of the most unstable.
The objective conditions for revolution in Britain are developing. The problem we face is a crisis of leadership for the working class.
A successful revolution requires a leadership and a party – one that is prepared to seize the opportunity to overthrow the capitalist system.
This is what we are building today in the International Marxist Tendency, in Britain and elsewhere, based on the ideas of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky.
That is why we say: Are you a communist? If so, then join us today in building the revolutionary party. There has never been a more important task.